Kaiserschmarrn is most often translated as a form of "pancake." Now, pancakes, as Americans know them, are not generally part of German cuisine, and when they are on a restaurant menu, they're not something I would recommend ordering. Kaiserschmarrn, on the other hand, is on nearly every menu in Southern Germany (usually the dessert menu or as in this case, at the stand selling "sweets" in the beer garden) and I would absolutely recommend that everyone try it. Calling Kaiserschmarrn a "pancake" is a bit of a stretch though. It's similar to a pancake, as it is a pan-fried egg and milk based batter, but the batter is cut up into scraps, fried, then partially cooked in the oven, and finished by being caramelizing in butter on the stovetop. It also often includes raisins and almond flakes, and is served sprinkled with powdered sugar and a side of applesauce or stewed fruit (never with syrup!).
I've always described Kaiserschmarrn's taste as a mixture between pancakes and French toast - for that reason, I classify it here as a breakfast food. However, it's more commonly seen as dessert in Germany, or is eaten as a meal unto itself (though not breakfast). Several of my German friends inform me that when they were kids their parents regularly (once every week or two?) treated them to a "sweet" meal, which meant something like Kaiserschmarrn or Strüdel or Germknödel as a meal, and to hell with the need for your veggies. Sounds pretty good to me! I would have loved that as a kid. In fact, I still love that- no childhood excuses necessary.
Adapted from Alfons Schuhbeck's Meine Bayerische Küche
Kaiserschmarrn is very easy to make at home. You just need to make sure that you have a good, heavy skillet that you can put in the oven. A stainless steel, or even better a cast iron, skillet will work well. Kaiserschmarrn is often presented at the table in a medium/small skillet as an individual serving size. The rustic presentation in the skillet is quite nice. Also, Kaiserschmarrn is most traditionally served with apple mousse (like apple sauce, but creamier). I'm not including a recipe for apple mousse here, so I suggest you just serve it with regular apple sauce, or alternatively with a homemade compote or whatever fresh fruit is in season. The last time I made this it was adorned simply with toasted almond flakes, powdered sugar, and a side of fresh strawberries.
1 cup (120 g) all-purpose flour
1 cup (250 ml) milk (lowfat is fine)
4 eggs, yolks and whites separated
one vanilla bean
zest of one lemon
3 Tbsp (40 g) melted butter
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup (60 g) white sugar
additional butter for cooking
optional: almond flakes, raisins, powdered sugar, apple sauce, fruit compote, fresh fruit
1. Turn the oven broiler on.
2. Mix together the flour and milk in a medium size bowl. Add in the egg yolks, the seeds scraped from one vanilla bean, the lemon zest, melted butter, and salt. Stir until combined, but to do not over-mix.
3. Beat the egg whites until they double in volume, and then gradually beat in the sugar until it forms stiff peaks.
4. Fold the egg whites into the batter.
5. Melt one Tbsp butter in the skillet over medium heat. Pour about half the batter into the pan and let cook for approximately 2 minutes. If you're adding almonds or raisins, sprinkle them on the uncooked side of the batter while the underside cooks.
6. Place the skillet in the oven under the broiler and keep an eye on it until the top begins to brown. This should take around 3 minutes, depending on how hot your oven is.
7. When everything is nicely golden brown, remove the skillet from the oven, and using two forks at opposite angles, hack up the pancake into medium to large bite-size pieces. Place the skillet back on the stove, drizzle in another Tbsp or so of melted butter, and a sprinkling of sugar, and give it one last fry over medium heat so that the butter and sugar caramelizes a bit on the outside of the pieces of pancakes. This should take a minute or two.
8. Remove the skillet from the stove and either plate the Kaiserschmarrn or serve directly from the skillet. Before serving, I suggest dusting it with powdered sugar and adding a fruit accompaniment- apple sauce if you want to go the most traditional German route.